How to Survive Cancer Diagnosis at 34 and Live to be 75? Fight to Win!

My mom just turned 75.

Big deal.

But, in her case it actually is a big deal. A really big deal.

When mom was just 34 years and the mother of five young children she was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma. Her sister had died one year earlier of ocular melanoma leaving behind seven children.

For the first time ever we asked mom what she actually did when she was diagnosed? Her response was something she’d never told anyone -not even my dad: upon hearing the diagnosis at Rush PSL Hospital, she got in her car, drove to  the Michigan Avenue area and parked. Then she walked. And walked. And walked. For hours. She told us she needed to be near hustle and bustle but she needed to “space out” and process what she knew: she had cancer. She had a husband who traveled frequently (remember, this is the 70’s when dads worked and moms stayed home.) She knew one thing: she was determined not to leave my dad to fend for himself with five young kids and she was going to fight it. Even more, she was going to fight to win.

She ended up having over 13 more diagnoses of melanoma; she lost her hair several different times with several different treatments; one year she was part of an experimental program  at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda taking high dose Interleukin 2 (to even be  accepted into that protocol one needed to be in the 5% survival rate pool of candidates.) She suffers from terrible lymphedema. In any case – she is still here.

I do not think I have ever heard her complain about her cancer. Ever. Instead, she grabbed life. She raced as fast as she could – in everything: solving problems, starting companies, cooking dinner, bringing meals to a newly diagnosed friend, mastering bridge hands, researching the environment, etc. Sometimes she was and is SO far ahead of the curve that we would laugh at her silly research (soy, partially hydrogenated, pesticides, etc). Then, when hindsight became 20/20 we’d  recognize that she was right all along. She can do about a hundred things at the same time: cook dinner, watch little babies, run the laundry, paint a painting and trade stocks without missing a beat. She has never wasted a minute.

While she said she never had a clear answer that day while walking the streets of Chicago hours on end merely to clear her head, over the years she knew one thing: she wanted her children to be independent. That we are. All five of us. While nothing is ever perfect, as mom frequently said, “if life gives you lemons make lemonade.”  She did the best she could. What I especially admire though is that in surviving cancer she chose to make a mad dash to the finish line. She’s still racing ahead and showing those around her the value of fighting to win.


College Kids: Looking to Land a Summer Job? Take Off Your Earbuds and Listen.

Spring Break is approaching.

Kids are boarding trains, planes and automobiles to visit family or friends. College kids are scrambling to figure out what they plan to do over the summer and how they plan to pay for school and/or expenses. What to do? I read somewhere recently that 20% of college-aged students in America do not have a summer job. Hmmm.

Let me share a story: Last year my college-aged daughter was on a plane returning home for break (lucky her.) She was working on her physics homework when the woman seated next to her struck up a conversation. They  ended up chatting the entire flight about science, physics, women in the sciences, mutual interests, etc. (My daughter loves science – especially physics!) At the time, my daughter was somewhat concerned that her love of physics was not strong enough relative to the ability of her peers at school. The woman with whom she spoke convinced her to stick with it if she loves it; that there will always be others brighter than she but women in science who are articulate and understand the subject are needed. For the first time, my daughter was relieved that she could follow what she loved and be able to find a career – even if she was not the best in her class at it. Further, the woman offered my daughter her business card, and suggested my daughter follow up with her.

Follow up she did. My daughter  contacted the woman several times over the next several months. As it turned out – the woman was one of the top females in America at a Fortune 500 company in the energy services arena – nuclear, in particular. After arranging for interviews, my daughter landed a summer internship last summer and will work there again this summer. Dumb luck? Maybe. But I’d like to think that taking off earbuds, talking to those around you when there’s an opportunity is an amazing opportunity – one which we should all recommend to our children.

So this Spring Break  – or any vacation for that matter – remind your children to take out their earbuds. Talk to strangers. Engage. You just never know where the conversation may lead.

Attended my first blogtalkradio show tonight via social revup.

I’ve attended Twitter parties. No joke.

Tonight was different. I was able to listen and follow via twitter feed #bbradio and #bbsummit12 at the same time! What a great format. To LISTEN, follow along AND learn about all participants at the same time was just great! My husband and kids are watching the Bulls versus the Heat while I have my headphones on and am listening to @Bethrosen host three bloggers: @EvolvingStacey @hannemaniacs and @maritramos. Each was genuine, insightful and real. I am friends with bloggers both on and offline. Sounds crazy?  It’s not. When you get to know someone online the offline time together is simply that much more powerful!

If anyone had asked me years ago if I’d be doing this?! Any of this?! Social anything?! No. However, I feel as if Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool – and I am a total convert. It’s amazing. Mostly I follow business (VC, Chicago based start-ups, anything digital) and mom-related people and bloggers (remember: being a good mom is my first priority.)

The only way I feel able to really understand the different angles and values of Twitter is to simply jump in. That’s why and how I attended those first few Twitter parties while at Plum District: I felt the only way I’d learn was by doing. So I did just that. If I can do it anyone can! Jump in. You do not need to like it, or even want to ever do it again -the point is to simply try. Learn by doing.

So give it a try. Connect on and offline.

Welcome to connectedchicagomom!

After working at Plum District where bloggers and mombloggers are key to understanding the social reach of the powerful mom segment, I am finally jumping in to start my OWN blog! Before working in ecommerce I really didn’t understand   – or even want to understand the online social world that exists.

Today, I feel very differently. I have an amazing level of respect for the females and males I have “met” online. The truth is, whether reading about business, family, recipes, the tech world – whatever – getting a glimpse into a person through his or her writing is powerful. Very powerful. While I’ve blogged for Patch all last year, it was mostly for work. This will be different.

It is my hope that I will be able to stick to a post each month. Further, it is my hope that I am able to share a bit and maybe even learn a bit along the way! Family. Business. Chicago.

Connecting people on and offline.